Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Book Review of Women and Redemption by Rosemary Radford Ruether
Women and Redemption: A Theology History
by Rosemary Radford Ruether
Published by Fortress Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Rosemary Radford Ruether is one of the luminaries of feminist theology, especially Christian feminist theology. This year, Fortress Press is releasing a improved and updated second edition of Women and Redemption: A Theological History, which is a historical survey of the church from a feminist perspective.
As most of my readers know, I would consider myself an egalatarian, and in some sense of the word I might consider myself a feminist. I have advocated for use of inclusive language for humanity in Scripture and worship. I cringe when I hear people say "mankind" instead of "humankind" the same way I cringe when people say "colored" to refer to African-Americans. I have worked hard to find down-to-earth ways to support women in ministry in the local churches I have served, even when the theology of many in the church ran counter to the equal partnership of women. I would not, however, consider myself a "feminist theologian". I believe that much of the modern feminist theology has sought to neuter the gospel instead of release the full-gospel in its full power.
Having said that, I could not recommend Women and Redemption more highly for anyone who is interested in understanding feminist issues and their influence on the church. Ruether has put together an excellent summary of how women have influenced the church, and how concerns about the inclusion and importance of women and women's issues has influenced the church from ancient days until today. She rightly describes the many ways that women have been marginalized in the church, and she rightly describes feminine heroes of the church throughout the last 2000 years as well. Not all of us will resonate with Mary Daly, and her post-ecclesial feminist theology, but we may find a lot of admiration the women of the Women's Sufferage Movement and their grounding of their struggle for equality in the Christian movement.
To be honest, the importance of this book for pastor-theologians as well as academics and ministers-in-training is not its prescriptive function, but rather its descriptive function. It spells out, in language a freshman in college should easily be able to navigate, what feminist theology is, and how its concerns manifest themselves in historical theology, social activism, the field of biblical studies, as well as many other theological concerns. From there, readers should be able to have an educated idea of what feminist theology is, and what parts of it they may accept or reject, and why.
This book would be an excellent textbook, as well as a reference resource for pastors and Christian leaders.